David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are turning out to be even more explosive than expected.

David Iglesias says Pete Domenici called him at home to specifically ask about the New Mexico public corruption investigation of a Democrat and whether the indictments would be filed before November.

When Iglesias said no, Domenici said he was very sorry to hear that and hung up the phone, according to Iglesias.

Iglesias said he felt pressured by Domenici and "leaned on." The call made him "sick," Iglesias told the committee, noting that it was "unprecedented" for him to get a call from a member of Congress at home.

Two weeks earlier, Iglesias had received a call from Rep. Heather Wilson while he was in a DC hotel room on DOJ business. That call was also brief, and Iglesias said Wilson asked whether there were any "sealed indictments." Iglesias demurred, and the call ended with Wilson saying she guessed she would have to take his word for it and the call ended, according to Iglesias.

Video up soon . . .

Late update: Here's the video.

A busy news day here at TPM, especially for a Sunday. Let me sign off with a comment from TPM Reader BG that I think captures an important historical and political dynamic at play in any number of Bush Administration disasters, scandals, and foul ups. BG is responding specifically to this post on the conditions at Walter Reed, but the larger point resonates far beyond that single sorry case:

What's really at issue here is the extent to which problems with the military, specifically, and the government, generally, are a result of policy. The common explanation for the catastrophic results of many of the Bush administration's initiatives (from Iraq to New Orleans and back again) is that they are the result of "incompetence."

Incompetence, the lack of capacity or skill, is ultimately an exculpating trope. It insinuates that the plan, or effort, was sound and could have succeeded had it been competently carried out. Moreover, the incompetent are in way less liable: their lack of ability lets them off the hook. Thus, "incompetence" insulates the actors from accountability and leaves the policy itself unscathed.

My personal opinion, which has recently been reinforced by much of what I read in Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City, is that the Bush disasters are a result of the administration's policies and not of some failure to effectively carry them out.

No one says, retrospectively, that Calvin Coolidge's failure to help the victims of 1927's Mississippi River flood was a result of incompetence. No one says that Mellon, with his inaction and insistence that the Great Depression would burn itself out through 'liquidation,' was incompetent. Both of these positions were wholly in keeping with the policies of the Coolidge and Hoover presidencies, policies that were not discredited until Roosevelt's victories and the institution of the New Deal.

The problem, a problem that Waxman seems to be keenly aware of, is that as long as the government retains the same kind of policies, the nation will continue to suffer the same hardships. It is not until the beliefs that inform the ways in which the Bush administration runs the government are firmly linked to their consequences that the nation will stop voting for politicians who promulgate, and enact legislation based on, those creeds.

These policies will not (again) be discredited until they are tied to their reprehensible results. Insisting on the 'incompetence' of the Bush administration turns attention away from this linkage between policy and result. In fact, it insulates the policies while discrediting the men who are trying to implement them. It, thus, sets the stage for those policies to be enacted again.


A breaking prior restraint case in Kansas City, where on Friday a state court judge ordered the Kansas City Star and the local alternative newsweekly, The Pitch (owned by Village Voice Media), to remove articles about the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities from their websites and barred them from publishing certain articles about the BPU in their print editions.

At issue was a confidential letter, upon which the articles were based, written to BPU officials by the board's attorney about BPU power plants. (h/t to Scatablog).

As if the prior restraint were not egregious enough, the judge didn't schedule the next hearing on the matter until next Friday.

Late update: As a couple readers have pointed out, the stories in question weren't pulled from the newspaper websites before they were cached by the search engines, a fact that may often make such prior restraint orders moot in this day and age, in addition to all of the other constitutional problems. The Pitch story is in Google's cache, and the KC Star story is cached in Google as well. Thanks to TPM Readers PK and MD for the links.

TPM Reader DJ, on Ann Coulter's remarks:

I've been wondering why no one has pointed out that among the conservatives it isn't saying the word 'faggot' that gets you chucked into rehab, but actually turning out to be one.

Good one. Why didn't I think of that.

TPM Reader JN checks in from Texas:

Can you believe it? The first time Pete Domenici attemps to exert improper influence on a U.S. Attorney and he gets busted. That's some bad luck. And Heather Wilson too. What are the chances? Dang....

They just do sarcasm better in Texas than in most places (see, e.g., Molly Ivins, God rest her soul).

TPM Reader NC of Australia, responding to the post below on David Hicks:

As an aside on this issue, Australians have generally fallen in love with Major Michael Mori. Every time we see him he is in his uniform, even at official functions. He seems to be the only American who gives a damn about what America has done to David Hicks.

When all this is over and done with, Major Mori can immigrate to Australia and become an Australian citizen. If he chooses to run for Prime Minister, people will welcome it.

At least one American comes out of this looking better.

I must admit that the case of David Hicks, the Australian held at Guantanamo, has been off my radar lately, and it shouldn't be. It's a national embarrassment. Here's the latest.

Hicks this week became the first person charged under the new military tribunals set up by Congress just before the mid-term elections in response to the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision striking down the old tribunal system.

After being held for five years without a trial and being originally charged with conspiracy to commit murder and engage in acts of terrorism, attempted murder and aiding the enemy, Hick was charged with a single count of providing material support for terrorism, which, his lawyers argue, wasn't outlawed until 2006.

Australians are outraged. Understandably so.

Now comes word that Hicks' trial may be delayed because his American military lawyer, Maj. Michael Mori, is being threatened with prosecution under the UCMJ by the chief American prosecutor, Col. Morris Davis:

Colonel Davis has accused Major Mori of breaching Article 88 of the US military code, which relates to using contemptuous language towards the president, vice-president, and secretary of defence. Penalties for breaching the code include jail and the loss of employment and entitlements.

Major Mori denied he had done anything improper but said the accusations left him with an inherent conflict of interest.

"It can't help but raise an issue of whether any further representation of David and his wellbeing could be tainted by a concern for my own legal wellbeing," Major Mori told the Herald. "David Hicks needs counsel who is not tainted by these allegations."

Major Mori, who has been to Australia seven times, will seek legal advice. The issue will also have to be raised with Hicks when his legal team next sees him.

Morris has criticized Mori's frequent trips to Australia; and, as The Times reported yesterday, American embassy officials tried and failed to have the Pentagon bar Mori from coming to Australia.

Why would anyone doubt that Hicks will get a fair trial?